A Whole-House Exhibit at the Trail End State Historic Site
March 2003 - December 2006
Trail End blueprints (Trail End Archival Collection)
THE GROWTH OF technology during the early years of the twentieth century was phenomenal. Americans went from horse-drawn to horse-powered; candlelight to electric lights. By the time Trail End was being built, the Kendricks had a wide variety of "new-fangled" devices to choose from, most for the purpose of making life easier for both the homeowner and his employees.
One of the best labor savers available to the early twentieth century homeowner was electricity. It made dozens of household tasks easier, provided illumination for longer work hours, and provided several new means of communication, including intercoms and telephones. Sheridan got its first electricity in 1893, when the Sheridan Inn turned on a homemade generator. By the time Trail End was finished twenty years later, most new homes and businesses in town were wired for electric lights. Gas fixtures and kerosene lamps still lit the rooms of older homes, but they were being replaced as quickly as possible.
At Trail End, light fixtures included chandeliers and wall sconces, a variety of fancy floor and table lamps, plus plain but functional ceiling fixtures. The lights were turned on and off by push-button switches while the electricity itself was controlled by marble and copper fuse boxes. Electricity also powered a number of the home’s labor-savers, including the intercom, annunciator, curling irons, an alarm for the walk-in vault and even a stationary vacuum cleaner.
Cleaning rugs and floors has always been a tedious job. By the 1910s, however, the housekeeper had a helpful new tool: the vacuum cleaner. The term “vacuum cleaner” was first used by Hubert Booth to describe his 1901 kerosene-powered suction cleaner. Each unit sat on a horse-drawn wagon and was parked outside the home to be cleaned. Flexible hoses were fed through the windows to access each room. By 1906, Booth had developed a portable electric model, but its weight – close to 100 pounds – made it less than practical!
The United Electric Company (TUEC) offered another alternative: a built-in stationary "air cleaner." Their advertisements held tantalizing promises of ease and convenience: "A built-in stationary cleaning system will keep your home sanitary, sweet and clean without work just as your stationary heating system keeps your home warm and comfortable without effort." A 1911 testimonial from M. A. Hockman went on to extol the device:
The "TUEC" is the greatest labor saver in the way of an aid to housekeeping that it has ever been our pleasure to come in contact with, and what was formerly the drudgery of housecleaning has now been reduced to a pleasant pastime. I consider it as essential an equipment to a modern house as a bathroom or a kitchen sink.
The Kendricks purchased their new TUEC system in 1913. Powered by an electric motor, the system operated through a maze of pipes connecting the basement motor to outlets located throughout the house. Hoses, tubes and various attachments were stored on each floor.
INTERCOMS & TELEPHONES
John B. Kendrick was a progressive man. If a modern piece of equipment or a new technology made a task easier or less expensive, he wanted to make use of it. Therefore, it is not surprising that he took advantage of many of the communications options available on the market. Early discussions centered around a Private Branch Exchange (PBX) system – a combination telephone-intercom supplied by Bell Telephone. Though versatile, this system had a few problems that could be distressing to the homeowner:
You can talk out of the building from any point or you can communicate to any station in the house or Garage without getting Central [Exchange]. ... The only disadvantage [is] the servants can listen to any conversation if they want to and can also monopolize the use of the ‘phone.
Eventually, Kendrick went with separate telephone and intercom systems. Powered by three dry cell batteries, the intercom was manufactured by Kellogg Switchboard of Chicago. The Burgess-Granden Company of Omaha supervised the installation to ensure that this modern system suited the Kendricks’ desires, both technologically and aesthetically: "We are writing now to see if it is possible to get the face of the telephone boxes finished to match the woodwork in each place where they will go. This system which we have selected, I believe, is one of the best that is manufactured."
As for the phones, none of the originals still exist. We do know, however, that there were at least a couple of desk phones in the home. These would have been the dial-less “candlestick” variety (dials were introduced several years later).
Unlike the OW Ranch, the Kendricks’ new home had indoor plumbing – and they weren’t shy about using it! City water and waste lines were run to the kitchen, butler’s pantry, eight full bathrooms, four partial baths, a twin-boiler furnace and the laundry room, plus sinks in three staff bedrooms and the third floor hallway. There was also a sprinkler system for the grounds, but its water was pumped uphill from Big Goose Creek.
Many of the plumbing fixtures at Trail End were purchased from James B. Clow & Sons of Chicago, which apparently took over from another plumber. Being substitutes, Clow & Sons were eager to please the Kendricks. As stated by manager W. J. Spillane in 1912:
Under ordinary circumstances we would not consider making a change at this late date, but as stated to you on the occasion of your recent visit to Chicago, we will do everything in our power to assist you in completing this most unsatisfactory contract.
Clow even went so far as to provide custom-made, solid porcelain bathtubs for the family bedrooms – and to accept their return when Eula Kendrick decided they weren’t to her liking.
TUEC stationary cleaner, 1911 (Trail End Collection)
State Historic Site